The Czech president has once again thrown his support behind opponents of Prague’s Pride festivities, which will take place this week.
Vaclav Klaus said last week that he held a “clearly negative opinion” of last year’s gay-pride festival, according to the Czech Press Agency. He has refused to condemn a deputy’s description last year of homosexuals as “deviant” and said it is fitting that the opponents of the event have their views heard.
Several organizations, including the Young Christian Democrats, the conservative DOST (“Enough”) foundation, and anti-abortion groups plan to hold rallies against the 2012 Prague Pride.
Last year Klaus criticized Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, a fellow member of the conservative Civic Democratic Party, for supporting the parade. In a statement, Svoboda said the festival "has become a part of the standard selection of cultural and social events ... the large civilized cities are offering to [their] residents," according to The Prague Post.
The event, to take place 13-18 August, will show that “Prague has a big, vibrant gay community and that we are a part of the city and of Czech society," according to Willem van der Bas, a spokesman for the festival.
The European Union is mulling increased sanctions on Belarus in response to Minsk’s expulsion of Sweden’s ambassador, the latest step in a diplomatic skirmish over the dropping of free-speech messages into Belarus via parachuting teddy bears, according to Radio Free Europe.
Top EU officials met in Brussels at an emergency meeting 10 August, one week after Belarus’ government refused to renew the accreditation of the Swedish ambassador. Stockholm responded by saying it would not welcome the proposed Belarusian ambassador to Sweden.
The conflict began when a Swedish public relations firm hired a plane to fly into Belarus and drop 1,000 stuffed bears holding signs calling for greater freedom of speech in the country.
Officials made no move at the Brussels meeting to recall EU ambassadors from Belarus, as had been speculated, RFE reports. But Olof Skoog, a Swedish diplomat and chair of the EU Political and Security Committee, said the union would send a “very clear message” to Belarus over the diplomatic breakdown.
“This is not a situation merely between Sweden and Belarus,” Skoog said. “We will be reviewing sanctions, restrictive measures against Belarus later on in the next few months.”
In February, Brussels intensified sanctions on Minsk by freezing assets and instituting travel bans for 21 Belarusian officials. The EU has taken escalating steps against the regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka since its brutal crackdown on protests following the December 2010 presidential election. Some prominent opposition figures remain in prison.
Tolib Ayembekov, an opposition fighter during Tajikistan’s 1992-1997 civil war, was the target of a Tajik military operation in the region last month. Authorities accused Ayembekov of running a mafia-style smuggling ring and of being behind the 21 July stabbing death of Major General Abdullo Nazarov, the regional director of the national intelligence agency.
After surrendering along with his followers to police in Khorog, the capital of Gorno-Badakhshan, Ayembekov called on other militants to lay down their weapons, RIA Novosti reports.
After 24 July fighting that killed 30 militants and 17 soldiers, the government declared a cease fire and offered amnesty to all combatants except those involved in Nazarov’s death. On 10 August, two suspects in the case, including a brother of Ayembekov, turned themselves in to police, according to RIA Novosti.
Ayembekov has denied involvement in Nazarov’s murder, which he says Tajik officials are using as an excuse to retake control of the region, Asia-Plus reports.
A credit crunch, deficit spending, high unemployment, and billions of euros in unpaid taxes add up to a crisis in the Croatian economy, the country’s finance minister said last week, SETimes reports.
Still, Zagreb is hoping to avoid a bailout from the IMF, banking instead on stricter tax collection and foreign investment through a privatization drive and efforts to make it easier to do business there, the news site reports.
The government estimates it will save 260 million euros ($320 million) by cutting benefits for public workers and laying off about 5,000 contractors. But even after the cuts, spending is expected to outpace revenues by 900 million euros. Zagreb hopes to narrow that gap by selling a publicly owned bank and insurance company and seeking investments in its energy industry.
Croatia has already cut spending and hiked its VAT rate to 25 percent this year, but analysts say it needs to diversify its economy and introduce flexibility into its labor market to attract more investment. Further, a recent list of delinquent taxpayers showed that 100,000 companies and individuals owe the government a combined 6.6 billion euros, according to SETimes. Last year, Fitch downgraded the country’s credit rating to BBB-, one level above junk status.
A month and a half after inconclusive parliamentary elections, Mongolia has formed a government that is likely to be friendlier to foreign investors than its predecessor, Reuters reports.
The rightist Democratic Party, which won 31 of the 76 seats in the unicameral legislature, will lead a ruling coalition. Party member Norov Altanhuyag was confirmed as the new prime minister last week.
A major issue in Mongolia has been ownership of the country’s gold, copper, and coal mines, which are fueling huge leaps in GDP. The previous government, led by the leftist Mongolian People’s Party, tried to prevent foreign companies from owning majority stakes in the mines and sought to renegotiate existing contracts, putting some investments in limbo.
According to Reuters, investment advisers are hailing Altanhuyag’s installation as prime minister. “The newly established government will welcome foreign investment, we will guarantee them a stable legal environment, [and] we will try to fulfill our party agenda,” one member of parliament told the news agency.
Mongolia is home to nearly 3 million people. It had a GDP of nearly $9 billion in 2011, nearly double the 2009 level, according to World Bank figures.